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Thursday, April 11, 2019 12:12 am

Washington Park native plant restoration

Volunteers helped transform this area by the fishing pier at Washington Park.
Photo BY Doug Carr

The native plant restoration at the fishing pier in Washington Park is a tremendous example of what can happen when enthusiastic volunteers partner with a public agency that wants to do the right thing but lacks the manpower. Last spring 1,000 native plants were planted between the road and fishing pier at the Washington Park lagoon.

Francy Cobern is a Master Gardener who lives near Washington Park and saw the potential to improve an area that was overgrown with weeds. She, along with fellow Master Gardener/Master Naturalist Susan Helm, approached the Springfield Park District with the concept of creating a native plant restoration area adjacent to the fishing pier. Chuck Smith, Superintendent of Natural Resources and District Arborist for the park district, says he couldn’t have been more excited. “The condition of that area had slowly deteriorated since our stream bank restoration over a decade ago,” says Smith. “The problem is that we don’t have the manpower to maintain something that takes so much time to do it right. Susan and Francy offered to plant and maintain the area if they could somehow obtain the plants and prep the area. I jumped on the offer.”

Park district staff, with help from many community volunteers, removed the invasive and undesirable plants and prepared the area. The park district committed funds and purchased the plants and mulch. Cobern and Helm obtained grants from the Illinois Native Plant Society and Springfield Civic Garden Club for fencing, landscape flags and labels. Signs were installed designating the 3,300-square-foot area as a University of Illinois Extension Pollinator Pocket and monarch waystation. This is a highly visible area in Washington Park, and the many walkers, runners and bikers are sure to enjoy the beauty of this native plant garden. Programs are being planned by volunteers to help people better understand and appreciate the benefits of native plants for monarchs and other pollinators, in addition to their beauty. Additional volunteers are needed to help with weeding. To volunteer, contact fcobern5108@yahoo.com or susan.helm@comcast.net. – Karen Witter

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